Politics

Report: Apple Is Lobbying To Soften Bill That Fights Forced Labor In China

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Apple, the $2 trillion tech company, has lobbied Congress to soften the language in a bill aimed at preventing American companies from relying on forced labor in China for its products, according to a report from The Washington Post.

Two congressional staffers told The Post that lobbyists with the firm Fierce Government Relations have sought to water down the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 403-6 in September, aims to ensure that American apparel and tech companies are not relying on forced labor of Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province.

The Chinese government is suspected of holding more than 1 million Uighurs in detention camps in Xinjiang, which is a heavy producer of cotton products and computer parts.

The Post’s congressional sources, who are not named, said several other companies in addition to Apple are trying to soften the language in the bill.

The House staffers did not tell the Post how Apple is seeking to curtail the bill, only that its lobbyists oppose the language of the bill in its current form.

TURPAN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 11: (CHINA OUT) Uyghur men perform prayers for ancestors at a cemetery before the Corban Festival on September 11, 2016 in Turpan County, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. The Corban festival, known to Muslims worldwide as Eid al-Adha or 'feast of the sacrifice', is celebrated by ethnic Uyghurs across Xinjiang, the far-western region of China bordering Central Asia that is home to roughly half of the country's 23 million Muslims. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Uyghur men perform prayers for ancestors at a cemetery before the Corban Festival on September 11, 2016 in Turpan County, in the far western Xinjiang province, China. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Fierce Government Relations disclosed in congressional filings last month that Apple paid the firm $90,000 in the third quarter of this year to lobby Congress on multiple issues, including the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. (RELATED: US Freezes Imports Of Goods Made In Xinjiang Region)

In September, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued “Withhold Release Orders” against four companies and one manufacturing plant in Xinjiang because they were suspected of using forced labor.

CBP alleged that the Chinese government has engaged in “systemic human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minorities” through the use of forced labor camps.

Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock told The Post that the company “is dedicated to ensuring that everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect.”

“We abhor forced labor and support the goals of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. We share the committee’s goal of eradicating forced labor and strengthening U.S. law, and we will continue working with them to achieve that,” Rosenstock told The Post.

He also said that Apple conducted an internal investigation into its supply chain this year and found no evidence that forced labor was used to manufacture Apple products.

Fierce Government Relations is also lobbying Congress on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act for the National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade group in the world.

The consortium paid Fierce $30,000 last quarter, according to Fierce’s disclosure to Congress.

Nike, the footwear and apparel maker, is also lobbying Congress on the bill. Lobbyists for the American Apparel & Footwear Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Plumbing Manufacturers International, and American Foundry Society have also disclosed to Congress that they are lobbying on the issue.

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